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Subject: Verdict on UK postal ballots.



> --
> Judge condemns postal vote system / Sandra Laville
> Judge condemns postal vote system
> Fraud level worthy of 'banana republic'
> Sandra Laville
> A senior judge made a scathing attack on the postal voting system on
Monday, condemning the government for complacency in the face of fraud that
would disgrace a "banana republic".
> Richard Mawrey QC, presiding over a special election court in Birmingham,
warned that there were no realistic systems in place to detect or prevent
postal voting fraud at the general election. "Until there are, fraud will
continue unabated," he said.
> He found six Labour councillors in Birmingham guilty of carrying out
"massive, systematic and organised" postal voting fraud to win two wards
during last June's elections for the city council. Declaring the results
void, he barred the men from standing again in a byelection expected on May
> After the judgment the national Labour party suspended the six men. A
spokesman said they would be subject to a "vigorous disciplinary process".
Criminal charges against them are expected. Police said their inquiries were
> But Mr Mawrey, a deputy high court judge who in four weeks of evidence
heard that thousands of postal votes were stolen in order to be changed or
filled in by Labour supporters, said the fraud was not the actions of a "few
hotheads". It was carried out with the full knowledge and cooperation of the
local Labour party and "extensively prevailed" throughout the city, where
applications for postal votes soared from 28,000 to 70,000 last year. It was
focused on areas with a large Muslim population who could no longer be
trusted to vote for the party because of unhappiness over the Iraq war.
> The case was brought after complaints from electors in the Bordesley Green
and Aston wards of Birmingham city council that their votes had been stolen.
Evidence compiled by the Liberal Democrats, who were defeated in Aston, and
the People's Justice party, which lost in Bordesley Green, formed the basis
of the hearing.
> In his judgment Mr Mawrey condemned the government for refusing to change
the postal voting system in advance of the general election because it
believed that systems to prevent fraud were "clearly working".
> "Anybody who has sat through the case and listened to evidence of
electoral fraud that would disgrace a banana republic would find this
surprising," Mr Mawrey said.
> "[It] indicates a state not simply of complacency, but of denial. The
systems to deal with fraud are not working well. They are not working badly.
The fact is that there are no systems to deal realistically with fraud."
> In a damning judgment that ran to 192 pages, he said the system for
registering postal vote applications was "hopelessly insecure". There was no
way of checking whether the person who had applied for the vote was the
legitimate voter.
> Postal ballots were sent out in ordinary mail and were clearly
identifiable. "Short of writing 'STEAL ME' on the envelopes, it is hard to
see what more could be done to ensure their coming into the wrong hands," he
> Record numbers of electors are applying for postal votes for the May
general election. A survey last month by the Guardian of 55 councils
covering 135 constituencies revealed applications to vote by post had risen
in all cases, tripling in some places.
> The Guardian Weekly 2005-04-08, page 12

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